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A Nice Email

Posted on:August 28, 2021

I had a nice email come in a few days ago that made my day!

Subject: Re: Today’s Interviews at Forge!

Hey Siaw Young,

Thanks so much for an awesome interview last Friday! I had a blast building out tic tac toe and was so grateful for the extra time you took to answer my questions regarding Forge and integrating into a team as a new hire. Our time really inspired me and made me incredibly excited by the prospect of joining Forge and I can’t say I’ve ever had a more positive experience at an onsite. Hope you have an amazing week, be sure check out the SF Symphony the next time they play Gershwin!

Best, XX

Just a random thought that popped into my head: one thing that companies don’t do enough of is rewarding employees for interviewing well. The basic premise for such a system could be as simple as:

  1. You interview person A.
  2. You think person A did well, and recommend her for a hire.
  3. Person A is hired and accepts the offer.
  4. If person A does well (as observed over the first however many months), you are rewarded in the form of it being counted explicitly as one of the criteria toward your performance report. Different weightages apply for different seniority levels (senior positions are harder to interview and hire).

This creates all sorts of virtuous incentives. You are incentivized to interview more people and help your newcomers succeed. A secondary bonus is that it discourages excessive gatekeeping (I’m quite prone to this).

Another random thought. As an interviewer, these things are usually true:

  1. You’re in a position of power.
  2. You’re an advocate for the company.

In my experience, it can be useful to reframe these as:

  1. The candidate is interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them.
  2. You’re an advocate for the candidate.

I usually start interviews by acknowledging that job searches are stressful, and that getting to a solution is not required for success (hint: don’t use questions with only one correct solution). Ask if they need a short break to drink some water or stretch or go to the bathroom. I do this even if it’s their first interview of the day, because pre-interview prep can be stressful too.

For software engineering positions, I pay particular attention to a candidate’s attention to detail. I look to their thoughtfulness in thinking about edge cases as a strong predictor of success on the job. Tell me in detail how to validate user input, even if we don’t end up coding all of it. I prioritize this over a solution that comes with unspoken, implicit assumptions about how it’ll be used, or something that breaks if the user happens to type an extra space somewhere. Tell me how you think a real user would use this, and how that influences your solution.